- Associated Press - Monday, October 10, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Candy shaped like marijuana that’s showing up on store shelves around the country won’t get kids high, but aghast city leaders and anti-drug activists say the product and grocers carrying it represent a new low.

“We’re already dealing with a high amount of drug abuse and drug activity and trying to raise children so they don’t think using illegal substances is acceptable,” city council member Darius G. Pridgen said. “So to have a licensed store sell candy to kids that depicts an illegal substance is just ignorant and irresponsible.”

The “Pothead Ring Pots,” “Pothead Lollipops” and bagged candy are distributed to retail stores by the novelty supply company Kalan LP of the Philadelphia suburb of Lansdowne. It also wholesales online for $1 for a lollipop and $1.50 for a package of three rings.

Company president Andrew Kalan said the candy, on the market six to nine months and in 1,000 stores around the country, promotes the legalization of marijuana and “does pretty well.”

“This is the first complaint I’ve heard,” Mr. Kalan said, “and people are usually not shy. I’m actually surprised this is the first.”

An irate parent brought the candy to Mr. Pridgen’s attention, hoping the council member could get the city to apply pressure to get it out of stores.

Mr. Pridgen and council member Demone A. Smith displayed the candy, along with fake marijuana known as “K2” that’s also sold in some stores at last week’s Common Council meeting, where Mr. Pridgen said he’d refuse to grant licenses to stores in his district that planned to sell the merchandise and would seek to embarrass stores that carry it. The synthetic marijuana is sold as incense but is smoked.

The bags of “Pothead Sour Gummy Candy,” and lollipops shaped like marijuana leaves appear to be a recent addition to the inventory of some corner stores. The sour-apple-flavored candy contains nothing illegal, but with its marijuana leaf, the word “legalize” and a joint-smoking, peace-sign-waving user on the packaging, critics say it’s not only in poor taste, but an invitation to try the real thing.

“It’s the whole idea that it promotes drugs and the idea that, here, you’ll look cool if you use this — which is what gets these kids in trouble in the very first place,” said Jodie Altman, program supervisor at Renaissance House, a treatment center for drug- and alcohol-addicted youth.

Charmaine Rosendary, 36, of Buffalo shook her head when she saw a picture of the package.

“That’s not right. It’s just promoting marijuana,” she said while buying produce Friday at a Buffalo market. She said she wouldn’t allow her five teenagers, ages 15 to 19, to have it.

It’s not the first legal product to come under fire. In 2008, the Hershey Co. stopped making Ice Breakers Pacs in response to criticism that the mints looked too much like illegal street drugs. Police in Philadelphia complained that the packets, nickel-sized dissolvable pouches with a powdered sweetener inside, closely resembled tiny heat-sealed bags used to sell powdered street drugs.

Candy cigarettes and fruity or energy-drink-infused alcoholic beverages have been criticized for targeting young people. And in 1997, the Federal Trade Commission said Joe Camel cigarette ads and packaging violated federal law because they appealed to youths younger than 18.

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